Scott Zellmer is a friend of Cinder and a phenomenal networker. He has worked as an engineer for cutting-edge companies like Micro Systems Engineering and RevMedx. As a partner at Arpeggiate Consulting Group, he uses his 30+ years of experience in technology development and manufacturing to help small businesses grow.
Q – How did you get into networking, and why is it important?
Scott: A mentor of mine, and a good friend, said “you must learn how to network, you absolutely have to.” I joined Business Networking International (BNI) in Portland and spent about a year and a half with that group studying networking and how to do it properly. It became a big part of my consulting when I was between corporate positions. When I went to RevMedx, we didn’t advertise for any of the positions we hired; we networked.
At Arpeggiate Consulting Group, our entire business development, marketing, sales, and market research is built around networking.
Q – What’s your best Networking Tip?
Scott: The number one thing is to make sure you know what you want to ask from somebody you’re networking with. For me, I always ask “who should I meet next?” or “who do you know that needs my help?” so that every time I meet somebody new I have a chance to expand my network.
The other thing I would say is important is knowing what you’re listening for. There are three key things I listen for in networking; Is the person I’m meeting a potential client? If they’re not necessarily a potential client, are they a key networking partner for me? What can I give back to them so that their networking with me is valuable?
Q – How can people get over their fear of networking?
Scott: To lessen the fear, I make sure I have an elevator pitch. I don’t just say the elevator pitch the same every time, but I’m clear on how I describe what I do and what my company does so that I can always lead off with that. Another good strategy is to just ask somebody about what they do – it will almost always get the conversation started. After even just two or three times doing it this way, people get comfortable.
I do lots of networking now, and I have a routine. Wherever I am meeting somebody, I always get there at least 10 minutes early to get settled, and then I have a little pre-game ritual: I look them up on LinkedIn, remind myself of who they are, who they work for, and what they do. I always look at their picture so that if I haven’t met them before I’ll know when they come in. I’ll have my notebook prepped with the date, their name, and who introduced me. I find that initial awkwardness of meeting somebody new usually goes away because I feel I know them already.
I’ve been talking mostly about one on one situations where I take an introduction or referral and spin it into a face-to-face meeting or phone conversation with somebody, but another kind of networking is at networking events. To get comfortable walking into a whole room of people that you don’t know – that takes it up a notch.
Q – How do you keep track of all the people in your network?
Scott: I have what I call my “networking database” – the truth is that it’s just an Excel table. When I meet somebody who could be a critical networking partner or client, I put them into this database. I enter their contact information and write an introductory paragraph for them.
At Arpeggiate Consulting Group, we measure this extremely carefully; I keep track of how many meetings my partners and I have, as well as how many of those convert to potential clients, how many lead to a proposal for a job, and how many close a job. I also keep track of how many introductions I make into my network – that’s how we manage our sales funnel.
Q – Following up with people is an important part of networking – do you ever send a card to somebody soon after you’ve met them?
Scott: I don’t do that often, although I’ve met several people who do. I think it’s a great idea, but I tend to do it in email; I follow up immediately and say, if nothing else, “hey, it was great meeting and getting to know your business.” That said, if they were either a potential client or a critical networking partner, you can start the next conversation right then and there by setting up a meeting.
Q – How has networking changed with the advent of social networks and technology?
Scott: From a social media perspective, I don’t really do a lot, but I do use LinkedIn. It’s like having access to everyone’s resume; it’s a really great tool. I look up anybody I’m going to meet and connect to them on LinkedIn. In my preparation before meeting, it’s always my go-to place. If I’m writing my introductory paragraphs, I usually go to LinkedIn and see what they’ve said in their summary section.